Commercial Cooking Equipment
Whether it’s electric or gas, the type of cooking equipment you use determines your productivity, efficiency and yield. Electric cooking is the smart choice for today’s energy efficient kitchen. Explore the advantages of electric cooking equipment and learn how to maximize your energy dollars and grow your business. Let Georgia Power show you how electric cooking technologies will help you enhance profitability, reduce kitchen heat, improve yields and increase productivity.
In addition to standard benefits like enhanced production, improved heat transfer, reduced shrinkage, lessened spatter and decreased effluent, the newest models of broilers increase food preparation efficiency, shorten preheat times and reduce excess heat loss in the kitchen.
Broilers provide an alternative method for cooking flavorful, nourishing, and healthful foods. Broilers are used to cook a wide variety of foods by a process that usually takes 3 to 6 minutes. Products commonly prepared with broilers include steak, poultry, seafood, hamburgers, pizza, and ethnic dishes.
Some types of broilers are used to “finish off” items like toasted breads, cheese sauces, and hot sandwiches. Depending on the broiler type, these food items may be cooked in metal pans, glass casseroles, or directly on the surface of broiler grates or conveyor belts.
In the 1950s, only about 10% of the nation’s food service establishments featured a broiler. Today, one third are equipped with broilers.
Comparing Electric vs. Gas Broilers
There are many factors to consider when selecting a broiler: initial cost, food preparation productivity, ease of operation, heat generation in the kitchen, and whether electricity or gas is used as the energy source. However, consider that energy only accounts for 3 to 5 percent of a typical food service establishment’s total costs. Therefore, while one fuel may be less expensive in a BTU to BTU comparison, the best choice in cooking equipment is the one that minimizes total operating costs, not just energy costs. Features that reduce labor costs or result in higher food product yield will nearly always outweigh any energy considerations. Make sure that you include all of these factors in any equipment evaluation.
Therefore, when comparing gas and electric models, compare equipment that is similar in all ways except the energy source.
Advantages of Electric Broilers
In general, electric broilers offer these advantages :
- Electric units are generally more efficient, adding less heat to the kitchen which ultimately must be removed by the cooling system.
- Electric units require less maintenance and less ventilation.
- Energy and Money Saving Tips
The efficiency of a broiler depends on the type of broiler used, the method of temperature control, and the type of energy used. Electric broilers are generally more efficient than comparable gas units, requiring less energy to preheat, less energy to maintain idling temperatures, and less energy input during full-load cooking conditions.
Broilers are among the largest heat producers in today’s commercial kitchens. Gas broilers radiate more heat than electric models due to their relative inefficiency. This adds to ventilation requirements as well as kitchen cooling costs.
Broiler energy consumption can be improved by following a few simple rules:
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommended preheat instructions. Preheating a broiler at an excessively high temperature wastes energy and can alter the quality and taste of the product. Preheating for an excessive period of time also wastes energy.
- Do not increase temperature during “rush hours” to increase production. Energy consumption will increase and the excessive temperature could destroy the quality of the product.
- Load the broiler to maximum capacity for greatest efficiency. Also, keep grates free of carbonized grease that hinders heat transfer, lowers cooking efficiency, and mars food quality.
- Operating all broiler sections may be sensible during peak cooking times, but turn off all unneeded sections when less cooking capacity is needed.
- The entire broiler may not need to be at full power even during peak periods. For example, turn one section to full heat for rare meats, and another section to a lower setting for well-done meats. This saves energy and money while also improving cooking consistency.
- Use infrared broilers whenever possible. Infrared broilers may be turned off when not in use and then quickly reheated when needed.
- If the broiler is gas-fired, keep burner parts clean and flames properly adjusted. A poorly adjusted flame wastes gas and may also deposit soot and carbon on food products.
- Preventive maintenance should be completed according to a routine schedule.
Broiler Operation Tips and Issues
To cook food, broilers use radiant energy, which is the type of energy used by the sun to heat the earth. Commercial broilers use electric or gas heat sources located either above or below the broiler cooking surface. These heat sources may cook food directly, or they may cook food indirectly using a radiant heating element. Some common materials used as radiants include pumice, ceramic, and metal bars.
The delicious, smoky flavor characteristic of broiled foods is a result of juices dripping down onto the radiant or open flame of the broiler and igniting or evaporating.
Different control methods are used with different broiler types to regulate cooking times and temperatures. Conveyor broilers have belt speed and temperature controls, while “over fired” broilers and “charbroilers” use high-medium-low temperature settings or adjustable grids.
Cooking with a broiler is a somewhat imprecise process compared to other types of cooking. Food quality and consistency depend on the distance between the food product and the radiant heat elements. Cooking is faster when the grids containing food are placed closer to the heat elements.
Periodic cleaning is essential to food quality. Charred meat stuck to the grids or grills can burn, transferring a bitter taste to the next food product placed in the broiler. Also, radiant heat elements may become coated with charred food and burnt grease. This insulates the elements, reducing the radiant heat transfer to the food. As a result, the chef must either increase the temperature or leave food in the broiler longer. Either method will change the consistency of food preparation.
Types of Broilers
Back-Shelf Broilers, Salamanders & Cheesemelters
Back-shelf broilers, salamanders, and cheese-melters are often used to supplement existing broilers. These light-duty units “finish off” partially broiled products and browned foods that are not normally broiled for the complete cooking cycle. These small units are capable of broiling other foods as effectively as larger standard units, but not as quickly.
Small amounts of food are “finished off,” melted, or broiled by exposing the food to radiant energy from the heating radiants located above the grid or rack. Back-shelf and salamander units are always single-deck broilers. Some salamander/cheese melter units are loaded and unloaded from one side, while others are equipped with pass-through capabilities. The units may be mounted on steel wall back-splashes above the ranges, mounted on 4 to 6 inch legs and placed on counters, or simply wall-mounted above prep stations.
Infrared models work like standard models, but the infrared radiants operate at considerably higher temperatures, increasing their heating capability and shortening preheat times. Back-shelf radiants are located above the cooking grids or racks. Each radiant has a separate temperature control with high-medium-low settings. In addition, the grid moves up or down through several levels. As with over-fired broilers, the grid of a salamander is spring-loaded or counterbalanced for easy operation. Drip shields are located below the grids or racks to collect grease and food particles. The grease and other liquid residue collects in a drip pan.
Some units have switches that turn on 100% heat when food is placed on the rack and then automatically lower the heat to a standby temperature in between cooking jobs.
Conveyor broilers combine the principles of over-fired broilers and under-fired broilers using a stainless steel belt to convey and consistently cook large quantities of food between two sets of heating radiants. One radiant is located above the food and one below. Each conveyor broiler may have one or more broil belts. In multiple belt units, the speed of each belt is regulated with a separate digital speed control so different foods can be cooked simultaneously.
Conveyor broilers can bake, broil, heat and melt a variety of food items faster and with less labor than other broiler types. The production capacity of a conveyor broiler depends on operating temperatures and the characteristics of the food being cooked, such as composition, diameter, and thickness of the food product. Fresh or frozen hamburgers, steaks, pork chops, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, chicken, fish, or any product that can fit in single-serving oven-safe cookware can be prepared using conveyor broilers.
The heating radiants of the conveyor broiler, which operate at temperatures up to 1,600°F, are controlled by on and off switches. The speed of each stainless belt is controlled by a variable speed belt control. Cooking time is a function of the intensity of the heat source and belt speed.
Conveyor broilers can be free-standing floor models or countertop models and can be flow through or front load-front return operation.
Infrared broilers work much like standard broilers, but they operate at considerably higher temperatures (up to 1,600°F) to produce high intensity infrared radiation, which increases their heating capability and shortens preheat times.
New Broiler Technologies
Manufacturers of broilers continue to improve food preparation efficiency, shorten preheat times, and reduce excess heat loss into the kitchen. Roller broilers are one example of the newer technologies becoming available. New infrared broilers have also made significant improvements in these areas.
Standard over-fired broilers are heavy-duty units designed to cook large quantities of food by exposing it to radiant energy. This energy is emitted by heating radiants above the grid. Infrared broilers work much like standard broilers, but they operate at higher temperatures (up to 1,600°F) to produce high intensity infrared radiation. Infrared broilers have very fast preheat compared to standard over-fired broilers.
Temperature and cooking time is controlled by moving the grid up or down through several grid positions. The grid is spring-loaded or counter balanced for convenient up or down adjustment. The grid also rolls in and out for easy loading and is removable for fast clean-up. Each deck of the broiler typically has separate temperature controls, usually with high-low or high-medium-low settings. This varies depending on the manufacturer and the type of fuel powering the broiler.
Drip shields are located below the grids and move with the grid to collect grease and food particles. V-shaped channels deposit the liquid residue in a drip pan for disposal.
Over-fired broilers are usually installed on stainless steel counters and are available as single and double-decked modular units. They can also be mounted on a one-pan oven base, convection oven base, or a storage cabinet base. In fact, some combinations of single gas broiler decks have storage cabinets below and a finishing oven above the broiler deck.
The waste heat generated by gas burners is sometimes used in the finishing oven cavity. This is an effective method of saving energy by recycling heat that would otherwise go unused.
These broilers have a moving roller mechanism that rolls the food back and forth over the heat source.
Under-fired broilers or charbroilers are typically medium to heavy-duty units. They have the ability to cook large quantities of food by exposure to radiant energy produced by heating elements located below the grid. Charbroilers are available in countertop, cabinet base, or stainless steel frame models.
Charbroilers cook food much like an outdoor barbecue grill. Food is placed on a cast iron grate above the heat source, and cooking occurs primarily from radiant heat and conduction by the grate. The energy source may be electricity, gas, wood, or charcoal. As the food cooks, fats or marinades drip onto the coals or ceramics producing smoke. The smoke produces the characteristic charred flavor, while the hot grates create the strip marks that are typical on charbroiled foods.
There are two types of under-fired charbroilers. One type allows the radiant heat source to heat a radiant to a cherry red color. The radiant, in turn, broils the food product. The other type of charbroiler uses a heating source above or below to heat lava rocks or ceramic briquettes. The rocks or briquettes distribute the heat more evenly than the heat source alone. Some manufacturers use both methods to increase efficiency and reduce preheat times.
The broiler grate is adjustable to both level and tilted positions. Typically, the charbroiler is designed for the rear two-thirds of the grate to be hotter than the front section. Many models also have grease troughs fastened to each blade in the top grates to channel excess fat runoff and reduce flaming. Excess residual fat drains into a large grease drawer in a cool zone for disposal.
A charbroiler, like an open range-top burner, consumes energy at a constant rate, which depends on the temperature control setting. Because the charbroiler has a significant thermal mass of heating material that requires preheating and retains heat, the unit cannot be turned “on” and “off” quickly on demand.
Maintenance costs for a charbroiler are typically higher that any other broiler types. This is partly because the heating radiants below the open cooking grates are exposed to any materials falling through the radiants.